Monday, April 9, 2007

hooks in queries

At the point where we finish our novels, we’re faced with the need for the dreaded query letter, with its required ‘hook’ content. The hook must lure the publisher or agent to think for a moment about whether to consider this wonderful opportunity a little further. How are we going to do that? How can one possibly condense the excitement and thrills of this literary gem that we’ve labored over for the past year, or years, into a make it or break it, attention grabbing, terse invitation to read the whole. Or at least to ask for a synopsis and partial. Criminal, we think, shouldn’t have to be done. But it does, and even if the novel is a fairly good read in its entirety, we may as well accept that the preliminary hurdle must be overcome, with class, with élan, before anyone might invite us to the next hurdle, the equally dreaded synopsis.

One informant tells us to consider the hook as a movie trailer for our story. That seems an apt approach. Get a clear sense of the problem, and of the people we’ll want to care about up and running, and show some emotional conflicts they’ll face in gaining a resolution. But don’t shoot ourselves in the foot by using unfortunate language while doing it. Easy, right? Well, no, but it's a necessary skill set to acquire. A few days of browsing the tons of aspiring writers' mail discussed on a blog like Miss Snark-Literary Agent is worth the cost of several craft books--and loads of fun.

There's a contest beginning April 13, where Fangs, Fur, and Fey, an authors' blogging site, will accept up to 180 hooks, in specified genres, 300 word maximum length, and will post on-line comments made by published authors who reviewed the hook submittals. Could be another learning experience, for those of us with thick skins (submitters will not be identified--thankfully).

More later on synopses.

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